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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Keep Your Llama Out Of The Haagen Dazs

November 7th, 2011

LLamaDr. Chris Cebra, Clinical Sciences Department Head, is pursuing research into the physiology of camelids as pseudo-diabetics. Using a college herd of more than 30 alpacas and llamas, Cebra is investigating how certain hormones affect blood sugar. Because the metabolism of a camelid is very similar to that of a human diabetic, the results of this research may provide insight into human treatment.

“We’ve known for a while that everything from camels to alpacas are essentially like diabetic people in a lot of ways,” says Cebra. “We’ve been looking at the roll of incretins – hormones released by the gut after a meal – that make the insulin response stronger and are a major factor in controlling blood sugar.” The data collected by Cebra suggests that diabetes may develop as a result of decreased incretin production. Further study is needed to determine if these results are transferable across species.  “We’re still interpreting our results,” says Cebra, “but it appears they may be directly transferable.”

Eventually, Cebra plans to share his research with the human healthcare community.  “Problems with incretins, and use of artificial incretins, is an area that is getting more and more interest. Most of the new drugs, the non-insulin diabetes treatments, involve the incretin pathways in one way or another,” he says.

Meanwhile, no worries about the camelid herd. Despite the resemblance to human diabetics, they don’t suffer the same health issues because their digestive system is different and their diet is so simple.

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